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Video: An Iconic Dancer On Her Toes After 50 Years

by Ann Farmer

WATCH THE VIDEO: Yvonne Rainer: Back to the Future

A founding member of the avant-garde Judson Dance Theater, Yvonne Rainer played a key role ushering in the post-modern dance movement that originated in New York City in the 1960s. Her consequential No Manifesto (below) -- which eschewed spectacle, virtuosity and other dance norms -- was her formula for demystifying a particular dance. Its tenets were adopted by subsequent generations of choreographers who followed her lead in rejecting the confines of ballet and traditional modern dance.

Similarly, Rainer helped break taboos in terms of female versus male role playing in dance. In an early piece, she had women hoisting men in the air -- a radical departure for that period.

She more fully investigated her feminist inclinations when she turned to Film About a Woman Who (1974) explored gender relationships and questioned the oppressive depictions of women in Hollywood cinema. MURDER and murder (1996) portrayed a complicated, lesbian love affair. She received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1990 and has been a professor emeritus at the University of California, Irvine since 2005.

This original video essay, Yvonne Rainer: Back to the Future, contrasts Rainer "back then" and Rainer "today" -- a career spanning five decades of invention and creativity about women's bodies and movement. Historic footage of Rainer performing her influential Trio A at the Judson Church in New York City in the mid-1960s shows how she explored, as per her Manifesto, ordinary movements and stripped her performances of emotion. For this piece, she also chose to avert her gaze from the audience.

This groundbreaking dance choreography is juxtaposed with an interview with Rainer, describing her career and current thinking, and her performance in the same space -- Judson Church in Greenwich Village -- in late 2010. Fifty years later, Rainer still pushes boundaries and feminist inclinations as she re-envisions the same piece. The iconic choreographer, re-performs Trio A, again using the dance as an instrument for change. This time, however, the 75-year-old isn't saying "No," as she did in her Manifesto. Now, she is saying "Yes" to another concept -- that aging and physical changes can be embraced on their own terms.

No Manifesto
by Yvonne Rainer (1965)

No to spectacle.
No to virtuosity.
No to transformations and magic and make-believe.
No to the glamour and transcendency of the star image.
No to the heroic.
No to the anti-heroic.
No to trash imagery.
No to involvement of performer or spectator.
No to style.
No to camp.
No to seduction of spectator by the wiles of the performer.
No to eccentricity.
No to moving or being moved.

November 15, 2010

WATCH THE VIDEO: Yvonne Rainer: Back to the Future

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Ann Farmer is a freelance journalist who covers local news for The New York Times and writes about culture, law and other topics for magazines including Emmy, the Directors Guild of America Quarterly and the American Bar Association's Perspectives. She resides in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Also see The Art Perspective by Linda Stein presents Judy Chicago in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.

Also see The Poet's Eye curated by Sarah Browning in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.


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